A PERSONAL trainer who grew up on an Ayrshire farm has spoken about her desire to promote fitness among farmers in a bid to boost mental health in the agriculture industry.

Jacalyn Dunlop and Grant Neilson started their own fitness business. G and J Coaching, last year with the aim of helping men and women build their body, mind and confidence.

The pair are both from a farming background - Jacalyn from Holehouse Farm, near Ochiltree, Grant from Park Farm near East Kilbride.

Knowing many farmers don’t take time to unwind, offload and do something they enjoy, they want to promote fitness within the industry.

The pair competed in the 'Britain's Fittest Farmer' competition last year, with Jacalyn crowned winner of the female section and Grant third in the male section - and are now trying to get a 'Scotland's Fittest Young Farmer' contest off the ground along with the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs.

Both Jacalyn and Grant are fitness ambassadors for the RSABI (Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution), which is running a high-profile campaighn to encourage farmers to look after their mental health.

They were also both active in Young Farmers throughout their teens and early 20s. Jacalyn was heavily involved in her club – Mauchline YFC – and took part in many events such as her club’s concerts, Talent Spot, Ayrshire Rally, speech-making, stockjudging and cattle dressing.

“We are trying to do as much as we can to promote health and fitness within agriculture and we have loved getting as many Young Farmers’ clubs as possible involved in our venture,” said Jacalyn.

“We really appreciate all of the support we have received so far. We have coached members from Lesmahagow, Biggar, West Renfrewshire, Mauchline, East Kilbride and Avondale YFCs.

“This has been for a multitude of reasons, ranging from tug-of-war training, club bonding days, committee days out and now some of these people have become recurring gym members.

“We are also hoping to start a YF event this year to find ‘Scotland’s Fittest Young Farmer’."

Jacalyn was a keen runner and swimmer when she was growing up and did both competitively. She also played netball for her district. She travelled the length and breadth of the country for competitions in all three sports.

When she went to university, competitive sport was put on the back burner as socialising with new friends and studies took over.

“During lockdown, when there wasn’t much else to do, we started – jokingly at first – talking about becoming personal trainers," she continued.

"This then grew arms and legs and before we knew it, we’d signed up to study our level 2 course and within the year, we had completed level 2 and 3 and started renting a gym space."

Jacalyn now works on the business full-time while Grant juggles working on the family farm alongside his personal training.

Jacalyn said: “We travel around the UK for fitness competitions regularly and in April we are heading to Dublin for the National Fitness Games, then in May we are heading to Manchester for the World Championships of Hyrox (a functional fitness competition).”

Grant added: “Last year, we both competed in ‘Britain’s Fittest Farmer’ where Jacalyn won the female section and I was third in the male section. The event was amazing from start to finish and we met so many amazing people. We’d highly recommend it to anyone who is interested.”

The competition focussed on promoting positive mental health within the farming community and since winning they have have done interviews about how they personally look after their own mental health and the role fitness plays in that.

“Health and fitness are so important within agriculture for many reasons," Jacalyn continued.

"It helps you stay fit and strong in a vocation which is rapidly relying on more and more technology to complete daily jobs.

“Additionally, and arguably most importantly, it helps you clear your head and creates some space between you and work. The majority of farmers take no time for themselves. All they do is eat, sleep and farm.

“And while in some respects this is commendable, in others it is hugely detrimental.

Everyone needs down time from their career and we cannot explain how much a good exercise routine will help you in every aspect of your life.

“Your mood, your productivity, your sleep, your energy levels, your concentration levels, your confidence, your physical health, your mental health, your strength and fitness. The list is endless.

“It’s easy to say ‘I don’t have time for that’, but you always make time for the things you value most.

“You have time to socialise, you have time to scroll social media on your phone, you have time to watch TV at night. We are almost certain everyone could find some time throughout the week to squeeze in a workout.

“It doesn’t even have to be in a gym. Exercise is essentially just moving your body with intent.

"Get out for a walk or a run, set up an assault course with the kids, do a home workout in the house.

“Anything that is going to increase your heart rate, work your muscles and take your mind away from the farm."

The pair have made an appearance on Landward to discuss Britain’s Fittest Farmer and the importance of exercise within agriculture.

This year they have also become fitness ambassadors for RSABI and have been helping them to promote health and fitness within the industry.

The pair are currently in talks with Young Farmers groups at a national and west of Scotland level to try and organise a version of 'Britain's Fittest Farmer' for young farmers in Scotland, and depending on the level of interest they hope to hold an event in late July or early August this year.

Top tips for implementing exercise into farming life?

* Don’t over complicate things. Your workout doesn’t need to be two hours of intense weightlifting at the gym. It could be a brisk walk or a light jog.

* Be realistic. If you’re new to exercise, don’t set a target of running a marathon next month.

* Set goals which are meaningful yet achievable.

* Find something you enjoy and then stick with it but to begin with, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. The more you stress yourself out with trying to be something you’re not, the less likely you are to stick at it.

* Realise the true value of exercise. For most people, their workout is the first thing that gives when you’re having a busy day and run out of time.

* Find a training buddy. Doing it alone can be difficult and at times the temptation to fall off track can be high. This is where your training partner will help to hold you accountable, push you further and motivate you to keep going. It’s also a good opportunity to off load to someone after a stressful day.

* Perseverance over motivation. After the first few weeks of a new routine, the novelty can wear off and this is where perseverance comes in. Motivation levels will come and go, but you have to find the ability to be consistent and power through.

* Make time. At busier/more stressful times of year like lambing and silage etc, exercising can be the last thing on your mind. But instead of viewing it as another job to be done, see it as a stress release.

They both added: “For us, our workout is as important as brushing our teeth before bed. It’s a non-negotiable which we are sure to make time for each day. This is because we value it so highly. We know that finding one hour a day to work on ourselves, guilt free, ultimately makes us better in every other aspect of our lives.

“One bad day doesn’t make a bad week. If one day doesn’t quite go to plan, swipe it and start again tomorrow. You don’t have to wait until Monday! You’re not going to lose all progress after one day off track.

“You don’t have to go to a gym to reap the benefits of exercise. If you can find 20 minutes a day to walk or run or follow a home workout plan, regardless of how tired you may feel, we guarantee that you’ll see improvements in your mood, stress levels and sleep.

“Sacrificing 20 minutes now will make you far more productive with your time later."